Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fiji Key-Plates & other Stamp Collecting Gotchas

I realize that the emphasis of this blog so far has been on the mechanics of collecting rather than on the stamps themselves. I promise this is not from a lack of interest in philately but rather that the kinds of comments I might make are already regularly published in most every issue of Linns, Scott Monthly, the APS Journal, etc. (As an aside, subscribers to either Linns or the Scott Monthly have recently been given access to the digital editions of both publications--now there's a bargain and a good incentive for subscribing even with the current economy!)

Speaking of the Scott Monthly, the April 2009 issue has an article by APS President Janet Klug titled "Collecting challenges abound among Fiji's key-plate stamps." In two pages, she presents some handy tips on differentiating the Edward VII and George V issues (and noting that higher values were often used as revenue stamps) as well as covering the history of early Fiji issues. Inspired by the article, I decided to check my Fiji stamps and sure enough either or I or the previous owner of my International had an Edward VIIth stamp (one of "the baldies") misplaced among the George V issues. This led me to consult the Scott Classics Catalogue so I could pencil in numbers for the Fiji issues I'm missing. This in turn alerted me that a couple of the pictorials weren't right either. It seems that the 1 1/2p, Scott 119 with an empty boat, and 2p, Scott 120 with no 180 degree mark, from 1938-40 were reissued with design changes in the 1940s, Scott 132 and 133 respectively. (A small consolation is that Scott 133 is worth more than the 120 but that's still no excuse for having it in the wrong space.)

The point of this is that I'm invariably sitting on the couch, working with two open albums, transferring stamps from one to another, and juggling collecting paraphernalia such as hinges, mounts, tongs, magnifying glass, etc. Trying to keep the Scott catalog open at the same time goes beyond both my dexterity and available space. So for obviously convoluted issues (e.g., the US Washington Franklin Heads Bureau Issues or the Austrian Franz Joseph definitives 1890-1904) that often can't be identified by the cut or descriptions in the International album), I mark the page with a post-it note so I can come back catalog in hand. But my hope has been that in most cases it should be obvious in what space a stamp belongs. Even relatively simple Fiji shows that I may have been deceiving myself. But if it were easy, everybody would have a filled Blue International on their bookshelves right next to their complete State Quarter Collection. (At least I think I've got the quarters in the correct slots.)

Postscript: Austrian Stamps and their Background 1850-1937 by Marian Carne Zinsmeister is helpful on sorting out stamps of this country. By way of example, the book offers this note on distinguishing the Scott 86-105 sequence of Emperor Franz Josef regular issues: "(A-19) numerals colored in white circle, (A-20) numerals (colored in 1906 and 1907 issues, black in 1904 issue) on white square; (A-21) numerals white on colored hexagon." Fortunately the International ignores varnish bars and perforations. Zinsmeister provides similar helpful summaries for other issues.

As noted elsewhere in this blog, a great resource for sorting out the Washington Franklin issues is:

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